Pemmican Beef Jerky headed “Strait” to the heart of consumers as associate sponsor of the George Strait Country Music Festival. Richard French & Associates (RF&A) developed an extensive national radio trade for mention program to reach country music listeners, increasing the value of sponsorship and brand recognition. Earning over $ 750,000 in public relations value during a four-month tour, Pemmican was not only positioned as a major tour sponsor, but also gained brand loyalty among country music fans.
Description of Program:
The fastest growing category of snacks in the country is meat snacks. Pemmican Beef Jerky is a top-selling brand of beef jerky, which is driving the category’s growth. Pemmican is produced by GoodMark Foods, Inc., an Independent Operating Company (IOC) of ConAgra Foods, and is sold at grocery, convenience, drug and discount stores nationwide. Pemmican is a high protein, low calorie and low carbohydrate snack for consumers looking to “Survive the Day.” The brand targets males and females 18-34 via national advertising on ESPN properties, Major League Baseball consumer promotions and alignment with country music artists and events, including tour support for hot country duo Montgomery Gentry and sponsorship of the George Strait Country Music Festival.
The George Strait Country Music Festival is the only music tour of its kind that plays stadium dates annually. Nominated for “Tour of the Year” and “Most Creative Tour of the Year” by Pollstar 1998-2000, the George Strait Festival has been one of the highest-grossing tours in the history of the music industry.
Pemmican signed on as sponsor of the George Strait Country Music Festival in 1999, hosting the only place where fans could interact with their favorite country music stars and sample free Pemmican Beef Jerky at the Pemmican Autograph Pavilion in Straitland, the festival area outside of each concert venue. At retail, Pemmican featured a national consumer sweepstakes on-pack and on in-store displays of Pemmican products offering a Grand Prize trip to the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards in Nashville, TN.
In 2001, the Pemmican brand experienced significant growth, yet increased competition for category share and shelf space within the segment of beef jerky snacks. Making an impact in consumers’ minds and the marketplace was essential to Pemmican’s marketing program, and sponsorships such as the George Strait Country Music Festival provided the opportunity to establish an emotional connection and brand relationship with target consumers.
In developing a public relations program to support the brand’s sponsorship of the George Strait Festival, RF&A and Pemmican faced the following challenges:
The Pemmican brand needed to raise its stature and credibility within the country music world and large base of country music fans
Be perceived as a larger sponsor with significant on-site presence, similar to Chevy Trucks and Jack Daniels
Pemmican wanted to become the hot spot attraction of Straitland and the George Strait Festival, offering a unique experience that no other sponsor could provide
Demonstrate the value of tour sponsorship and gain program support and participation from GoodMark sales personnel and key Pemmican retailers
Targeting the country music consumer is a natural fit for the Pemmican Beef Jerky brand. Association with country music and the western lifestyle reinforces Pemmican’s traditional and authentic western image. Adults ages 24-44 are the most frequent listeners of country music and are also the target market for Pemmican.
To select a country music tour and determine the overall best fit, RF&A consulted with GoodMark Foods and tour promoters Clear Channel Entertainment. Agency worked with event marketers GMR Marketing to develop a highly visible, branded and interactive Pavilion for maximum Pemmican presence in Straitland.
Sweepstakes questionnaires and informal interviews conducted at George Strait Festivals (with consumers) and focus groups aided the brand’s decision to continue a successful association with country music. Most recently, benchmark image and awareness studies revealed an unaided high awareness of country music and a high brand association with country music among males and females, 18-34.
To leverage Pemmican’s sponsorship of the George Strait Festival, RF&A developed a public relations program to meet the following objectives:
Build a relationship and provide an unforgettable concert and product experience with new and occasional jerky consumers participating in a lifestyle activity
Increase Pemmican’s brand reach among target consumers
Drive traffic to the Pemmican Autograph Pavilion for a unique “Pemmican Experience” at each of the George Strait Festival’s concert stops
Increase public relations value for the Pemmican brand
Drive sales and shelf space of Pemmican Beef Jerky
The following strategies supported Pemmican’s sponsorship of the George Strait Country Music Festival:
· Increase one-on-one product sampling opportunities at each tour stop
· Heighten the consumer experience at the Pemmican Autograph Pavilion
· Implement a strong, grass roots public relations program capitalizing on the popularity of the festival
Specific public relations strategies included:
· Implementing a strong radio-trade-for-mention program partnering Pemmican with top country music stations across the country
· Aligning Pemmican with Coleman Outdoor Gear to add incentive to radio station promotion managers and listener participation in on-air promotional contests
· Leveraging Pemmican’s exclusive access to country music artists to benefit consumers, radio partners and key retailers
· Inviting local TV to the Pemmican Autograph Pavilion to obtain exclusive access to artists for media interviews
RF&A employed the following tactics to execute an extensive media relation program throughout the 2001 George Strait Festival.
· Secured radio promotions on top-rated country music stations in each of the 16 tour markets for free on-air brand mentions/liners, contests and remotes/sampling events
· RF&A negotiated extensive on-air exposure in exchange for 4-6 concert tickets, VIP meet-n-greet passes at the Pemmican Autograph Pavilion, Pemmican premiums, product and select Coleman Outdoor Gear
· Distributed a national press release to consumer and trade publications
· Distributed a local media advisory to local TV, radio and print media in each of the 16 tour markets
· Provided on-site public relations at the Pemmican Autograph Pavilion to secure VIP consumer experiences for Pemmican retailers, GoodMark sales personnel and Grand Prize winners of radio-trade-for-mention contests
Summary of Results
From March through June, RF&A executed a total of 32 radio promotions, resulting in over 1,500 on-air mentions and free brand exposure among listeners in 30 cities. The exclusive prize value offered to radio stations translated into strategic promotional partnerships for the Pemmican brand. Radio partners included Pemmican in both pre-recorded and live announcements, register-to-win contests and live remotes during prime drive times throughout the promotion period. Many stations aligned the brand with existing station advertisers (i.e. Pemmican sampling at country night clubs, western wear retailers) for added value and local exposure, while other returning radio partners presented Pemmican with a superior promotion for the third year in a row.
Overall, country music remains the top format (in quantity) of radio stations nationwide, and the best vehicle to engage potential consumers in tour markets. Pemmican’s sponsorship of the George Strait Country Music Festival resulted in increased brand awareness among consumers and increased public relations value and brand equity in country music. As a result of RF&A public relations activities, Pemmican gained $ 762,174 in PR value over a four-month period. For the year 2001, Pemmican maintained a top position in the competitive beef jerky segment of snacks.
Over three years, Pemmican has quickly become the official snack of the George Strait Country Music Festival and has strategically aligned itself with larger, traditional brands within the world of country music.